Two accused in Staines' case acquitted

A lower court here on Wednesday acquitted two accused in the 1999 brutal murder of Australian missionary Graham Stewart Stianes and his two minor sons in a remote tribal dominated village in north Odisha. The district and sessions court, Khurda set the two accused, Ranjan Mohanto and Ghanshyam Mohanto, free because of lack of credible evidence against them.

Both the Mohantos were nabbed by the Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI) in May last year after evading arrest and running from the law for nearly fifteen years. The premier investigating agency had probed into the sensational triple murder.

Earlier in 2003, a special CBI court here had awarded death penalty for Dara Singh, the prime accused in the case while sentencing 12 others for life on the basis of charge sheets filed by the CBI. Subsequently, the Orissa High Court had commuted Singh’s death penalty to life imprisonment and acquitted the rest. In 2011, the Supreme Court had upheld the Orissa High Court’s verdict. One charge-sheeted accused in the case is still at large.

Staines, who had set up a rehabilitation centre for leprosy patients, while residing at Baripada in tribal dominated north Odisha district of Mayurbhanj for decades was burnt to death along with his two sons in a mob attack at Manoharpur village in neighbouring tribal dominated district of Keonjhar in January, 1999.

The Australian missionary who had gone to the remote village for a “jungle camp” was sleeping inside a vehicle parked in front of the local Church when the incident occurred.

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